Overcoming Discouragement

“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest…” Matthew 11:28

One of the challenges faced by those who devote themselves to Christian service is the loss of spiritual strength. Just as we have physical and emotional energy reserves, we have a spiritual reserve that carries the fuel needed to power our lives and ministries. When this reserve is full, we find ourselves filled with motivation, zeal, and purpose. However, when it becomes depleted, we slip into discouragement and weariness.

There is no question as to whether or not we will face discouragement. The real issue is, will we recognize it when it hits? If so, how will we respond?

It is important to recognize discouragement early; this saves us unnecessary anguish and protects our relationship with the Lord from mediocrity. Personally, whenever my work for the Lord begins to feel burdensome and hopeless, I know it is time to go to the Master for a spiritual tune-up. Many times, the problem in such situations is not the weight of my circumstances but the fact that my ability to handle those circumstances has diminished. The way to resolve this problem, I have found, is by going to Jesus and asking for help.

I have observed that our initial response to discouragement is often the feeling that we have betrayed the Lord. This feeling triggers the need to help ourselves, so we apply our own remedies (“maybe if I do this or that, I’ll feel better”), hoping to make ourselves feel and perform better. Alternatively, we attempt to endure discouragement, only to find that this leads to more discouragement.

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Devising our own formulae for resolving discouragement hardly works. The quickest and most effective way to deal with the problem is to humbly go to the Lord and ask Him to restore us. He alone is able to diagnose the root of our problem; He alone knows what is needed to solve it. Consider the analogy of a car on the verge of a breakdown. The car may have one of several problems: it could need a battery change, a part that needs repair, a new engine, or something else entirely. However, it would be impossible to diagnose its exact problem by a taking cursory look. To get it working, the car would need to be closely inspected by someone who has a good knowledge of cars and is equipped to supply what that particular car needs. The same principle applies to us in our times of discouragement. Whether we need a little encouragement or a change in our circumstances or a complete overhaul of our lives, the Lord alone knows. He alone knows what it would take to restore us to full strength and make us fit for His work again.

Life is gloomy when we’re discouraged. We find it difficult to imagine ourselves motivated and zealous again. But restoring us to full strength is one of our Lord’s specialties, as is beautifully expressed by an old hymn:

I heard the voice of Jesus say, come unto Me and rest; lay down, thou weary one, lay down thy head upon My breast: I came to Jesus as I was, weary, and worn, and sad; I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, behold, I freely give; the living water, thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live: I came to Jesus and I drank of that life-giving stream; my thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, I am this dark world’s Light; look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright: I looked to Jesus and I found in Him my Star, my Sun; and in that Light of life I’ll walk, till traveling days are done (Horatius Bonar, 1808-89)

When we come to Jesus for restoration, His Spirit shows us what to do. We may be prompted to pray, praise, intercede for a particular situation, study the Word, read a phrase or quote from a book, take certain steps to resolve a troubling situation, take certain physical measures to rejuvenate ourselves, or simply rest in Him. The beauty of it is that when we respond to what we’re prompted to do, no matter how simple the action may seem, we come out refreshed, restored, and filled with hope again.

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